November 23, 2020
Diogo Bezerra was raised with his nine siblings by their single mom in São Paulo, Brazil. When Diogo was 10, his mom became a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It wasn’t until he was 14 that Diogo had his own spiritual experience that inspired him to also join.
At church, Diogo noticed that some of the kids his age were learning English. Unfortunately, all of the language courses he could find were too expensive. When Diogo was called to serve a mission in Portugal, he was excited to learn English and worked very hard at it.
Diogo returned from his mission with an increased desire to help other people, which led him to become a service missionary for BYU-Pathway Worldwide. From 2016 to 2019, Diogo saw people’s lives improve and he has loved helping them. In April 2018, he also decided to start PathwayConnect himself while serving as a missionary.
Because he was able to speak English, Diogo got a job working at Xerox and was paid three times more than he could have made without his English skills. He also built a home for his mom — his ultimate dream.
After a while, he noticed the people around him did not have the same opportunities he had and wondered how he could make a difference. Diogo ran his ideas by others and decided to start a business offering affordable English classes.
Because Diogo didn’t have business experience, he relied on God — taking initiative and working hard to make his goals a reality. “I just had God to help me to connect with people and to motivate me to get my fears out,” he said. With faith in God, he quit his secure job and took a risk so that he could make a difference in his community.
“There were times when I had anxiety and fear and those times [when] I had God to help me. I know that God exists because of my testimony but also [because of] the support and all the spiritual help He gave me throughout a difficult time as a new business owner. He helped me a lot by just giving me the right people to help me and to support me.”
Because Diogo and his friends didn’t have a building to meet in or the money to rent a space, they first met in shopping malls. The food courts provided a perfect place for students to learn in real situations.
Despite the program’s low cost, it was still difficult for some people to afford instruction, so Diogo and his team developed a scholarship system in which every three paying students allow one student who is not able to afford the course to participate.
After designing their business and finding ways to accommodate the community, Diogo and his friends worked hard to invite as many people as they could. “Now we have almost 200 students at our school…. Some of our students are teachers now. They’re making money…. We have companies that contract our services to teach in their companies,” said Diogo. The two-year program also encourages students from other states in Brazil to connect virtually, including through Facebook live broadcasts with American English speakers each month.
“Learning English is a journey,” said Diogo. “If they keep doing their part to study every day and to make it real, they will learn English.”
After completing PathwayConnect, he said, “I started [PathwayConnect] just trying to improve my skills and found companies to support my English school.” Because Diogo was working toward higher education, companies gave him more support, which helped his business and changed his life. He hopes to earn a bachelor’s degree in business someday.
His advice to students is, “Just don’t give up.… It’s going to help you.” Just like Diogo had God’s support in accomplishing His goals, so do you! Continuing your education will bless you and give you opportunities to bless others.
To learn more about BYU-Pathway Worldwide’s PathwayConnect program, visit byupathway.org/pathwayconnect. To learn more about affordable English-language learning courses offered through the Church of Jesus Christ, visit englishconnect.org.